Have you heard some chatter lately about “gospel renewal”? Maybe you’ve heard Pastor Bobby reference it or you heard someone say that we’ll be praying for gospel renewal on January 10th. But what is gospel renewal anyway?
What is gospel renewal?
Tim Keller writes a lot in his book Center Church about it. “Gospel renewal is a life-changing recovery of the gospel,” he says (p. 54). Gospel renewal has taken place when one experiences the doctrines of sin and grace. No longer are these concepts head knowledge (I’m a sinner saved by grace), but they are heart knowledge (I really know deep down that I’m a sinner saved by grace). It’s not just an intellectual understanding of these doctrines, but a deep experience that they are true and real in one’s own life. When a larger group of people all experience this awakening together, this is sometimes called revival, or corporate gospel renewal.
Why does it matter?
Why should we pursue gospel renewal? “Because the default mode of the human heart is works-righteousness” (Keller, 54). Have you ever caught yourself thinking that “if I only work really hard to be a good person, then God will really love me”? We often fall into the lie of believing that we must do good in order to receive the love, forgiveness, and acceptance of God. But the reality is that the gospel is good news about what God has done in Christ on our behalf. We are broken people, but we are accepted by God without doing a thing. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8).
I remember when I experienced personal gospel renewal in my life. I was in a relationship that had broken down and I was completely lost as to who I was or what I should do. I didn’t have the strength to put on my “church smile” and pretend everything was okay. As I read Scripture and cried out to God and sought godly counsel, my heart was awakened by the fact that, despite my sin and messed up life situation, God loved me and extended grace to me. I was dirty in my eyes, but clean in his. When I realized this, I found a new excitement in the Lord and renewed motivation to extend that same love to those around me.
When our spirit is renewed by the fact that our sin is so deep, but God’s grace is deep enough to cover it, we are filled with joy, a willingness to admit our faults, a gracious attitude toward others, and a more intentional outlook toward others instead of toward ourselves.
How do we achieve gospel renewal?
The beauty and the challenge is that we cannot achieve gospel renewal ourselves! It is only possible through prayer and the work of the Holy Spirit. The most famous revivals of history – including the Day of Pentecost and the Great Awakening – began with prayer. As Keller writes, “To kindle every revival, the Holy Spirit initially uses what Jonathan Edwards called ‘extraordinary prayer’—united, persistent, and kingdom centered.” (p. 73). This kind of prayer includes humble repentance, seeking God’s glory, and a desire to see the church flourish and reach the lost.
When can we start?
If you desire for the Spirit to awaken your soul and give you a deeper understanding of sin and grace, join others at two specific opportunities for prayer for gospel renewal.
- Sunday, January 10, at 6pm – Cornerstone Church in Manchester-by-the-Sea will be joining us at NSCBC in the Sanctuary to worship and pray together for revival, reconciliation, reformation, and reaching out.
- Two Thursdays per month at 5:15pm (on Awana nights) – you are invited to join a faithful small group of people in the Conference Room who have been praying for gospel renewal in our own hearts and in our region.
And keep your eyes peeled over the next few months for an area prayer guide, which Natalie Crowson is organizing. Contact her if you want to help compile this: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today’s post was written by Melissa Lowther.